Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Should We Pay Robbers Not to Rob?

A little more of this, a little less of that.

That's what training is all about no matter what type of beast is being trained.

Most people know how to reward positive behavior, and to be honest it's not that tough to train a small child or a new puppy.

But what about bad behavior that is strongly self-reinforcing, and may have gone on for years without any opposition at all?

"Train a different behavior" we are told, but of course those are just words. The answer to a barking dog is not to "train it to bark on command and then never give the command," no matter how often that bit of nonsense is repeated. For dogs, barking is a self-rewarding behavior, same as deer-chasing and digging in trash cans for stray scraps of food.

But, of course, not all training is about dogs and small children is it?

We also train adult people, organizations, corporations, and even clients.

And is all that training done using a "click and treat" paradigm?

Of course not.

Nor could it ever be.

For example, what are we supposed to be doing with criminals who rob our houses and shoplift in our stores?

Are we to reward them every time they decide not to rob us?

Are we we supposed to buy a meal and a movie ticket for a rapist every time they allow a pretty girl to walk by unmolested?

I think not!

And what about corporations that engage in illegal theft, profiteering, and bill-padding, or which manufacture products that maim, poison or kill?

Are we supposed to give tax breaks to all the companies that don't kill us and don't poison us and don't rip us off?

Are we supposed to "click and treat" companies full of liars, cheat and thieves as soon as they stop lying, stealing and cheating?

How do you "train" away corporate bad behavior with a purely-positive rewards-based system?

You can't.  

It's just that simple.

The bottom line is that there is a place for cheese and choke chains, and this is not new information.

It's not a matter of one or the other
-- it's a question of using the right tool on the right problem at the right time and in the right manner.

1 comment:

Viatecio said...

I am still waiting for my obligatory frappucino that I am due every time I stop at an intersection with a stop sign or stoplight. No frappucino reward, no stop? I'm sure the police would quash that argument rather swiftly with a well-timed, motivational punishment of a ticket or two!

Also still waiting for my daily paycheck bonus to which I am entitled (right? RIGHT?!) for showing up to work on time every day I am scheduled. Have not yet received said bonus the whole time I've worked there. Maybe I should just not show up since I have not been positively reinforced with the exception of a nominal financial incentive every 2 weeks. I'm sure that would go over like a lead balloon and I would be punished with a reduction of said scheduled financial incentive or even a loss of my daily job.

I also require regular rewards for adulting by way of getting out of bed the first time when my alarm goes off (no snooze button here!), eating breakfast, keeping my house/clothes/belongings decently clean (no sterility here, just ordinary cleanliness) and clothing myself daily.

WHAT?! You say there are no such rewards forthcoming? Well then! I have no such incentives to behave and as such, society should just throw its hands in the air and pronounce me untrainable, then let me run amok as I please since nothing else is stopping me. Or maybe I could be a "work in progess" or just "in training." It takes years to learn how to drive a car (a VERY advanced skill, obviously!) and learn all the signals/signs in driving, right? You say it takes months to learn how to turn the alarm off and not go back to sleep? Decades to learn a job? GO TO WORK?

I'll be old and infirm by the time I learn all of those, and by then I probably won't be able to do them well at all, so no worries if I never learn to begin with. I can just be "managed" in daily life and my environment strictly regulated to protect me from myself and the poor decisions I may make.

/Oh wait...